Until 1960, African Americans could spend money in any part of Greensboro’s department stores such as Woolworth’s, but they could not sit and eat at the lunch counter. Under the segregationist customs of the time, the lunch counter was reserved for whites only. On Feb. 1, 1960, four NC A&T students started a sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter that sparked similar sit-ins throughout the South.
Last week, one of the four Woolworth Sit-in leaders of 50 years ago, Franklin McCain, recounted those days before and during the sit-ins. He noted that three students from Woman’s College [UNCG], whom he called “some brave souls,” joined in the protest after a few days. They have been called the WC Three. He described their participation as “heartwarming,” explaining that “they knew what we were doing.” He also noted that WC’s then-chancellor threatened these WC women with suspension if they continued.
McCain, who is a UNC Board of Governors trustee, was the featured speaker at UNCG’s MLK Celebration in 2004.
Two events on our campus will mark the 50th anniversary of the sit-ins, which is Feb. 1.
– The discussion “WC at the Lunch Counter: UNCG’s Involvement in the Sit-In Demonstration of 1960” will be Thursday, Jan. 28, from 4-5:30 in the EUC’s Multicultural Resource Center. It will look at the participation of the WC Three and also Claudette Burroughs-White in the sit-ins. The discussion will include Dr. Lisa Levenstein (History), Betty Carter (University Archives), Dr. Tara T. Green (African American Studies Program) and Dr. Hephzibah Roskelly (English). The discussion will focus on the women, the climate for women in the 1960s and the response of the college to their participation in the sit-ins.
– A commemorative walk from Guilford Residence Hall to the Governmental Plaza downtown will take place Monday, Feb. 1, the day the new International Civil Rights Museum will open. The museum is located in the former Woolworth’s Building. The historic lunch counter is a prominent part of the museum’s features. The walk from UNCG will replicate the one at least two of the WC Three took to go downtown and participate in the sit-ins. People will begin to gather in front of Guilford Hall at 11:30 a.m. The walk starts at noon.
The events are sponsored by the African American Studies Program, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Department of History, Office of the Provost and Women’s & Gender Studies.
In addition, several exhibitions by Archives are on view at Jackson Library.
- In the Jackson Library entryway – A display marking NC A&T students’, Bennett College students’ and WC (UNCG) students’ participation in the sit-ins.
- In Jackson Library foyer, near Reference Desk – Exhibition detailing WC’s move toward racial integration. WC’s first two African-American students were JoAnne Smart and Bettye Tillman. They enrolled in 1956. In 2008, the Smart-Tillman Distinguished Professorship in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance was created.
- In Jackson Library/EUC breezeway – Exhibition on the WC Three and Claudette Burroughs-White’s participation in the Woolworth’s sit-ins.